THE BLOG
01/30/2012 05:56 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2012

Minding Your Own Life

I've always been fascinated by the slogan of the United Negro College Fund: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." While they are speaking of an education in the academic sense, I'd like to give this saying a more literal application. Our minds are the most amazing part of ourselves. We often think of ourselves as our physical bodies. But since our bodies are physical in nature and will one day decompose, it's not fair to call ourselves our bodies. Yes, your mind is the one unique thing that distinguishes you as individual, and your mind is the ultimate connection to the universe.

We were born without knowledge. Everything we know and believe is a result of our learning environment. We learned our language, which is responsible for quite a bit of how we think and make judgments. Our parents taught us what is going on in the world and how to cope with it. Those surrounding us took it upon themselves to explain who we are, what to do, and what not to do. Of course, what our parents taught us was based on what was largely taught to them.

With everything we've learned, it's disappointing that very little emphasis is given to teaching us how to think on our own. Even our compulsory education system focuses almost exclusively on what to think instead of how to think. By buying into this system of education, we're conditioned to accept others' perspectives, values and beliefs -- we forfeit the privilege of using our own minds. Our vast intellect lies dormant and untapped, sometimes for our entire lives. The teaching and conditioning that we underwent in childhood didn't stop when we became adults. Entire industries have been built around controlling our unsuspecting adult minds. Politicians, religions, retailers, drug manufacturers, media outlets and others prey on this lapse in judgment by using mind-based marketing to advance their agendas. As a result of this non-stop conditioning, we give up a lot without thought.

In 1984, the Los Angeles Times published an article revealing how the U.S. dealt with a surplus of cows' milk. The government simply launched an ad campaign to promote milk consumption. We were blanketed with "official government reports" and TV advertisements that told us to buy more milk. We were told that milk was healthy and good for us -- claims that weren't exactly based on solid facts. But as you might imagine, milk consumption skyrocketed. A desire for milk -- a supposed need -- was implanted in our minds. And nearly 30 years after these campaigns began, parents still encourage their children to drink cows' milk, saying, "It's good for you," without questioning it in the slightest because it was back by a governing authority.

Mind control of this sort goes on every day. As you can see, corporate, political and religious organizations merely need to get their messages into minds eager to be indoctrinated. Like a well-oiled machine, people blindly follow their directives. We're living under a spell that we seem unable to wake from: We follow these companies, institutions and agencies in an endless lockstep to nowhere. Why is it that we remain on this dull and meaningless path? Why do we accept the world as others say it is? Is there some point when we'll quit selling our one utter uniqueness -- our minds -- to others? Some animals can change skin color when they need to; others grow thicker coats of fur when they get cold. But we humans can adapt in the most amazing way: We can change our environment by using the inner power of our minds to think for ourselves. If we were to start thinking for ourselves, the virtues would be tremendous.

The bottom line is that no matter what our beliefs are, they are often based largely on interpretations handed to us by others. Sometimes those beliefs resonate with our own internal truth, and sometimes they don't. Regrettably, we often hold beliefs that we ourselves don't believe at our core. It's important to remember first and foremost that, regardless of others' opinions and teachings, we have a far superior compass at our disposal -- our inner hearts and minds. It would be tragic to disregard our innate awareness, substituting it for another's directive. We mustn't allow others to control our minds. It takes courage to think for one's self. The views of society may not always align with one's own. However, we should take comfort in that. The resistance that society gives us can indicate that we are not merely walking in lockstep with the crowd. We should accept this form of resistance as an indicator that we are, in fact, minding our own lives.

Our life should be beautiful and blissful right here and now. I encourage you to create your world with your own mind, and not live in a world that others built to contain you. This power of your mind belongs to you and you alone and I suggest you not squander it. James Baldwin wrote, "If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all." We don't have to pretend that we're invincible, or that we know all the answers. Using your own mind provides the answer. Don't judge it, question it or wait for others to validate it for you, because it's yours exclusively when you mind your own life.

For more by Aaron Anson, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.